Ever since the Libyan uprising erupted in mid-February, every response by the Obama administration has fueled rampant speculation about the President's strategy for dealing with the crisis. Just how aggressively would Obama intervene? Well, we now have the clearest sense yet of the White House game plan.
On Thursday, National Security adviser Tom Donilon outlined a six-point plan to dislodge Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from power--one that avoids military actions like a no-fly zone, which Libyan rebels have called for as Qaddafi's forces gain momentum through assaults on strategic towns in the west.
What exactly is the Obama administration's plan?
Coordinate Global Response. The U.S. wants the international community--the Europeans, the United Nations, the Arab Leage, and the African Union--to urge Qaddafi to relinquish power "with one voice."
Impose Tough Sanctions. The U.S. has frozen over $32 billion of the Qaddafi regime's assets, and hopes to return the money when "a new ... more representative government, emerges in Libya." America has imposed additional economic sanctions with its European allies and the U.N. Security Council.
Threaten International Prosecution. The International Criminal Court is investigating whether the Qaddafi regime has committed war crimes and the U.S. intelligence community will monitor the Libyan government's activities, in an effort to hold the regime accountable and persuade Qaddafi loyalists to abandon their leader and his violent crackdown.
Communicate With Rebels. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with opposition leaders next week and the U.S. is "prepared to send diplomats" to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the east "to engage the opposition." On Thursday, France became the first nation to recognize the rebels as the Libya's legitimate government. The U.S. has not yet followed suit.
Provide Humanitarian Assistance. The U.S. will dispatch disaster assistance relief teams to eastern Libya and continue funding NGOs that provide humanitarian assistance and repatriating Libyans who've been displaced.
Consider Military Options. NATO is deploying more warships in the Mediterranean and developing plans to offer humanitarian relief and enforce the Security Council's arms embargo. While NATO has not ruled out a no-fly zone, Donilon said, the alliance would only take military action with regional participation (and, most likely, U.N. authorization).The U.S. may also provide "supply to the opposition," but Donilon didn't specify whether those supplies would include weapons.
"We've acted quite swiftly and steadily," Donilon concluded, but the crisis in Libya is "not going to be resolved overnight." But here's the question: is the White House plan sufficient to resolve the crisis at all?
Earlier on Thursday, James Clapper, President Obama's top intelligence adviser, predicted that Qaddafi's "superior militlary force would prevail over the long term." Donilon dismissed Clapper's assessment in his briefing, arguing that the international community's efforts to undermine Qaddafi's legitimacy and deprive him of allies and resources will ultimately tip the balance in the opposition's favor.
David E. Sanger at The New York Times is more skeptical. It's not clear "that the efforts the White House announced would be enough to ensure an end to Mr. Qaddafi’s 41-year-long rule, or even to slow the pace of his attacks," he writes.